SLR on Church of England leader Justin Welby: A priestly toff exposes his privilege – BizNews

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What happens for church leader Justin Welby – charged with the spiritual wellbeing of a nation as old as Great Britain – to prompt comparisons with US Democrat mayors, “stumbling their way through excuses and platitudes as their cities burn?” The Archbishop of Canterbury cited popular grime rapper Stormzy in describing what allegedly inspires him about officiating at a Royal Wedding. It was so jarring that columnist Simon Lincoln Reader can only put it down to a disingenuous attempt by the Archbishop to ingratiate himself with the urban youth. Justin Welby exposes himself as being a totally out-of-touch “toff”. The politically-motivated utterance called to mind quotes from the Koran by former PM Theresa May at a Conservative party conference six years ago, prompting SLR to consider whether Britain has actually lost its mind. He cleverly weaves in a comparison between the Eton/Oxford-educated high priest with the black archbishop of York, a Ugandan with some deeply uncomfortable life experiences that, SLR argues, amply qualify him to replace the top toff, currently swanning in around robes coloured to his choosing. – Chris Bateman

Justin Welby, British madness and the grime rapper

By Simon Lincoln Reader* 

Whenever I am asked why Britain has lost its mind, I think about the time when it was all but confirmed to me.

In May 2018 I was driving back from Normandy. Just before the Blackwall tunnels, BBC Radio 4 played an interview with Britain’s spiritual leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in which Justin Welby claimed that he was “finding inspiration in the lead up to officiating the forthcoming Royal Wedding by listening to the grime rapper Stormzy.”

It was a breathtakingly disingenuous remark, even more breathtakingly disingenuous than Theresa May quoting verses from the Koran at the 2014 Conservative party conference in Birmingham. Like May, whom Stormzy frequently smeared in spite of her repeated virtue signalling, here was Welby’s attempt at greasing himself (and presumably the institution leads) into the minds of the urban young as culturally and socially right-on – that fatal, narcissistic, middle-class condition suffered by political parties, celebrities and tens of thousands of households across north and south west London.

**

Justin Welby went to Eton, and then to Oxford, and then onto an oil company where he served as an executive before his calling, so his enthusiasm for the apex of a music genre that has been accused of glorifying violence, particularly knife crime, is curious.

But he has form here. On the day of his appointment in 2013, he painfully attempted to diminish the privilege he had enjoyed by calling himself “stupid”. He was trying to demolish the documented link between a gilded upbringing and prominence in public life – that well trodden path of opportunity via minimum effort available to so many of Britain’s middle and upper classes. But at the time there was already an abundance of unimaginative, thick Conservative politicians, so Welby’s denial that his appointment was consistent with Britain’s habit of rewarding connections was jeered. He should never have got the job.

**

Instead it should have gone to a man born on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda. John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, was uniquely positioned to fill the role, given that his own calling was prompted by an experience with hell, or rather, one of Idi Amin’s jails. Unlike Welby, Sentamu wasn’t and isn’t thick. Having trained as a lawyer, he arrived in Britain an immigrant – even in 2013 this should have counted for something – at the very least, to identify with the nuanced complexities of assimilation.

Sentamu actually cared about black people. In 2007, when the likes of Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma and Julius Malema were refusing to condemn Robert Mugabe, he famously cut up his dog collar on television in disgust at the behaviour of Zimbabwe’s President.

**

Covid-19 saw the Church of England (CoE) come in for a hiding. Under government advice many Churches closed their doors and services were reduced to virtual affairs, embittering some parishioners for whom the CoE is the central, binding feature of their lives. Whilst this was an acceptable response given the information available, many among the elderly, suddenly alone, vulnerable and confused, were startled to then witness some CoE Bishops emerge to involve themselves in highly-charged political issues, none of which had anything to do with faith.

When the dust was beginning to settle over these regrettable incidents, Welby again went on the divisive. In the ongoing battle of memory and its place in contemporary society, Welby entered the debate last week on the removal of statues by suggesting that the identity of Jesus as a white person needs examination. Some statues, he admitted, would have to come down, before going on to declare that “forgiveness for the past is possible…but only if there is justice”. Critics have taken exception, correctly pointing out that the basis of the Christian faith is unconditional forgiveness.

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Through time, the CoE has presented the orders of love and respect that have transcended belief and, to an admirable extent, appeased the country’s problematic history. It was the first institution to acknowledge that the ills of colonialism were bought about by hundreds of thousands of young men from broken homes wandering its land aimlessly. To make peace with the brutality of so much of the world being conquered in its name, the CoE shifted its focus to the role of the family, encouraging stability and reflection. Without shirking responsibility, it recalibrated and successfully distanced itself from the establishment.

Loyalty to purpose was always going to require strength, but particularly in the latter half of the 20th century where it became the feature of sustained attacks by radical, academic movements and their supporters.

In contrast to a former Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, who was awarded the Military Cross for two astonishing feats of bravery during the Second World War, Justin Welby lacks the courage to resist fashionable opportunism and now appears about as useful as some of these hopeless Democrat Mayors in the US stumbling their way through excuses and platitudes as their cities burn.

What distinguishes Welby, however, from rank and file establishment profiles selling out for popularity sake is that his burden is not some ideological heap he can row back on as and when it suits him. Misinterpreting the fundamental principle of Christianity is not simply an insult to the religious, but it is a threat to order that emphasises fairness. And country without this order is a country without a mind.

  • Simon Lincoln Reader works and lives in London. You can follow him on Medium.
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